Will Republicans flatly obstruct all three of President Obama’s nominees to the DC Circuit Court? It sure seems that way to me, but Jonathan Bernstein disagrees:
Here’s my guess — not a prediction, but just a guess based on past patterns. We’ll continue to hear the insipid rhetoric about “court packing” and how the DC Circuit doesn’t need any judges anyway, but that will be mostly just background music for the rubes. One of the picks will get through fairly easily. One will be killed by filibuster. And the third will be a close call, but probably get through, perhaps with a few Republicans voting yes on cloture but against confirmation. Those opposing picks will mainly focus on claims that the nominees are out of the mainstream ideologically, or will allege lack of proper judicial temperament, or some other such reason — very few Republicans will claim that they are blockading the DC Circuit Court.
Maybe! Jonathan thinks Republicans will be leery of total obstruction because “it would almost certainly push Democrats over the edge into going nuclear.” That’s a good point—better, I think, than his argument that Republicans haven’t blocked every single appellate court nominee in the past. I don’t think that’s very meaningful. This fight is different, and the stakes are higher, so I don’t think past performance is a good indicator of how Republicans are going to play things.
But fear of pushing Democrats over the edge into killing the filibuster is probably quite real, and there might well be half a dozen Republican senators who (a) take that seriously and (b) are nervous about the total blockade strategy in the first place. These half dozen will also need to be senators who (a) aren’t up for reelection next year and (b) can afford to cross the conservative media, which is almost certain to turn this into a litmus test of standing up against Obama’s attempt to impose his thuggish one-party rule over the entire country. But there might well be six such senators. I’d say Jonathan makes a good case.